The third installment of the popular “X-Wing” series, X-Wing vs Tie-Fighter was released in 1997 to meet the needs of fans who wanted to face off against each other in a multiplayer environment. While the game succeeded in doing what it set out to do, it managed to forget one thing along the way; a single player campaign.
So how enjoyable is this game? Where does it stand in the legacy of Star Wars PC games? Read on, the answers lie below!
A space combat simulator, the game allows players to pit off against each other in their favourite Star Wars spacecraft. X-Wings, Tie Fighters, A-Wings, Tie Interceptors, etc. are all available to pilot within the game. Featuring a graphics engine built from the ground up, the game is also technically superior to its predecessors. Things such as higher resolution graphics, texture mapping, and a CD soundtrack, all add to the essential “Star Wars” feeling of the game.
However, as mentioned, the game lacks a single player campaign. Yes, there are practise missions and the like, but there is no true narrative story running throughout the game, as was present in it’s predecessors. This, of course, didn’t necessarily go over too well with the fans of the series. They had come to love the story-drvien campaigns which let them peek deeper into the Star Wars universe, and as X-Wing vs. Tie Fighter was advertised as having one, they were let down. This led to the eventual release of the Balance of Power expansion, which added the much demanded story-driven campaign. I should note that this was released before the lackluster prequel movies, and continuous glut of Star Wars tie-in television series that exist today. Thus, at the time, games were one of the few places you could indulge yourself in the expanded Star Wars universe.
A lack of a story-driven campaign was also problematic for the state of videogames at the time. Today, games such as Team Fortress 2, Counter-Strike, and a slew of MMO’s, all make online-only gaming a natural part of our gaming lives. In 1997 however, this was a little different. While Quake, released the year before, was popular amongst the online deathmatch crowd, it was still a game that shipped with story-driven single-player component. People were used to playing through stories, and weren’t yet gaming online exclusively. X-Wing vs. Tie-Fighter perhaps came along a little too quickly, in a world where online gaming wasn’t yet the dominant force it is today.
That being said, the game was still a blast to play. As the first game in the series that I played, I hadn’t become accustomed to the series unique story-driven campaign, and thus was fine fighting AI in skirmishes across Imperial space. There’s a unique fun in chasing down a Tie Fighter with your A-Wing, or disabling a capital ships shields with you Y-Wing’s ion cannon, that can only be found within Star Wars games. And for this, X-Wing vs Tie Fighter does not disappoint in the slightest.
While you may have trouble playing this game on your systems today, an unofficial patch can be found here, though I cannot claim to have used it myself, yet. You can also find some extra campaign levels here, though again, I have not tested them myself, so use discretion when downloading.
For those of you who love the near-dead space-sim genre, or maybe want to see what it’s like balancing an X-Wing’s shields against an incoming Tie Fighter squadron attack, X-Wing vs. Tie Fighter is the game for you. I should also mention, there’s been rumors of a sequel/remake for years now.